CBS’ Pelley noted for blunt evaluations of Trump

Published 10:35 am Friday, March 10, 2017

NEW YORK — Soft-spoken yet direct, anchor Scott Pelley is emerging as a blunt evaluator of President Donald Trump on his “CBS Evening News” broadcast.

After Trump’s claim of underreported terrorist attacks last month, Pelley said on his newscast that “it has been a busy day for presidential statements divorced from reality.”

He was just getting started.

Email newsletter signup

“The president’s real troubles today were not with the media, but with the facts,” he said on Feb. 24, reporting on a skirmish with the media.”

“Today we learned the length of the president’s fuse — 28 days,” he said, before a story about Trump’s first news conference as president.

“Some of the problems Mr. Trump promised to solve last night don’t actually exist,” he said on the broadcast after the president’s address to Congress.

“Today, the president had another Twitter tantrum,” he said on March 3, the day before Trump accused former President Barack Obama of ordering a wiretap against him.

Pelley isn’t another cable news bloviator. He’s the buttoned-down anchor of a nightly news summary steeped in tradition, one that reaches between 7 and 8 million viewers a night on a network particularly popular in the nation’s heartland — Trump country. His words carry weight.

The one-liners are sharp in a way that’s unusual for the evening news, and they set Pelley apart from his rivals, Lester Holt of NBC’s “Nightly News” and David Muir of ABC’s “World News Tonight.”

“It’s striking because it’s such a departure from the traditional norm of objectivity that serious news anchors have always gone for over the last few generations,” said Mark Feldstein, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland.

If Pelley made a conscious decision to take a bolder tack with a new administration, it isn’t clear. The 59-year-old “60 Minutes” correspondent who has also anchored CBS’ flagship newscast since 2011 sent word through a spokeswoman that he preferred to let the work speak for itself.

His statements have come at a time of debate in journalism over how to deal with presidential statements unsupported by facts: Do you say the statements are untrue or do you call Trump a liar?